Another well known Charlotte family has joined the Belks in supporting a plan for North Carolina’s first community center and shelter for lesbian, gay and transgender youths: the Levines.
Howard Levine, former CEO of Family Dollar, and his wife Julie have issued a $100,000 matching grant, asking the other donors to match his gift dollar for dollar.
The campaign set out to raise $3.4 million over five years. However, Levine’s gift means it has crossed the halfway point in just three months. His gift follows a $100,000 donation from Myers Park Baptist Church and a $1.5 million gift from Sara Belk Gambrell, a member of the Belk stores dynasty.
Observers of the philanthropic world in Charlotte agree the gift is proof of broadening support for causes that may have struggled in years past.
The money will create a shelter and headquarters for the state’s oldest LGBTQ youth agency, Time Out Youth.
“Projects like this often face challenges in raising money,” said Levine, noting that the debate over House Bill 2 proved how divisive LGBT issues can be in North Carolina
"While I do not want to offend others, this is a matter of helping troubled youths, regardless of sexual orientation. These kids are often more hindered and troubled because of those who may have issues with the LGBT community. And the HB2 debate has made it even more of challenge for these kids on a daily basis.”
Levine and his father, Family Dollar founder Leon Levine, have a track record of bringing attention to causes.
Since creating the Howard R. Levine Fund in 2010, Howard Levine has given away $16 million, including money for Loaves & Fishes food pantries, the American Red Cross and a Hospitality House program that covers expenses for out-of-towners stuck in Charlotte because of a hospitalized loved one.
He has also become a champion for a rebirth on Charlotte’s low-income west side, giving $1 million to help build a child development center on land that was once home to the notorious Boulevard Homes housing project.
Rodney Tucker, who is leading the campaign for Time Out Youth, says winning support from the Levine family shows how support for the effort is becoming broader. “It’s a statement to the community. Their understanding and support of social justice issues in our city is long standing,” said Tucker, noting it’s a new level of support for the long struggling agency. “This is the first major challenge grant the Center has ever received.”
Time Out Youth exists to offer a safe gathering place for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth between the ages of 11 and 20.
It unveiled its shelter plan in January, after it had purchased a vacant building at 3800 Monroe Road. The plan is to renovate the 7,400-square-foot building for LGBT youth support programs, and built a 10-bed shelter.
Homelessness among lesbian, gay and transgender youths is a common problem. Some LGBTQ youth “face tremendous cruelty and abuse” from their families, often getting kicked out of their homes, said Tucker.
Time Out Youth has operated a fledgling housing initiative in recent years that places homeless LGBTQ youths with volunteer hosts. However, only 10 youths a year can be housed, due to lack of space. Construction of the shelter will remedy that problem, officials said.
Construction of the shelter will start in 2019 and be complete in 2020, creating the city’s first shelter space devoted to homeless LGBTQ youths. The agency paid $875,000 for the new site at a time when program attendance at its current North Davidson Street center has nearly doubled in just 12 months.
Howard Levine says it was the Gambrell gift that drew his attention to the project. However, he admits knowing little about Time Out Youth at the time.
“I had no idea what they were doing, but I realized that it fits perfectly with my foundation’s support of youth in crisis,” Levine said. “The more I found out about Time Out Youth, the more I realized they do tremendous work to help kids who have no place else to go. It’s amazing and I want to bring attention to it.”
How to help
The new Time Out Youth office will open this summer at 3800 Monroe Road. For more information about the Time Out Youth Center, the new building or the capital campaign, please contact Rodney Tucker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be made online at www.timeoutyouth.org.